Ric Roman Waugh‘s Snitch might easily be the most forgettable thing that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has starred in since he crossed over into films. Snitch is exactly the type of film that you’d see Johnson’s former co-workers Steve Austin or Dave Bautista in. It feels very much like a PG-13 actioner that was probably meant for straight-to-DVD, yet somewhere along the lines Johnson got involved and the film shot up to the big screen. There’s nothing about the actual film that heightens the limited action sequences or bare drama for the silver screen. Skip Snitch and re-watch Faster if you absolutely need to see The Rock acting tough and stomping on fools.
John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) is a hard working honest man. He’s a family man, with a son and daughter. He’s also owns his own construction business. When he’s not busting his ass at work he’s usually trying his best to split up his time between his new family and his old family. See, he had his son young, when he was with another woman and since then he’s moved on and had a daughter. He’s trying his best to give his daughter a normal life, while also reminding his son that he cares immensely about him.
That doesn’t seem to be working too well, because his son Jason gets caught up in some drug smuggling. Jason’s friend got busted and the only way to reduce his sentence is to rat out a friend. So now Jason is facing big prison time for accepting a package that had some drugs in it.
The police try making a deal with John’s son, but he won’t give up any of his friends and he’s clearly not cut out for the prison life, so John takes matters into his own hands and volunteers himself to be a snitch for the police until they bust a higher up drug cartel, which will then reduce his son’s sentence.
What John doesn’t know is that once you dip your toes into the crime life you’re pretty much in it until you die. He quickly gets himself mixed in with a big drug dealer, which leads him to a drug cartel that has ties down in Mexico. Now, John must attempt to give the police and the drug cartel what they want before the drug cartels find out about his family and more specifically his son, who’s sitting in the local jail.
Director Ric Roman Waugh gives Snitch absolutely nothing to run with. The only shining moment in the film is Dwayne Johnson, but even he can’t save this made-for-TV movie. Waugh focuses mostly on the drama, substituting action whenever characters simply run out of things to say or do. Snitch is not an action film as much as it is a performance-based drama. And that doesn’t work nearly as well as it should either, because Johnson is the only one capable of bringing both on-screen intensity and the emotions required to be an enduring father.
But even Johnson occasionally fumbles. The biggest problem is his physical form. The guy is a giant beast of a man and yet whenever his character gets into basic confrontations that could be solved with a punch to the head; his character retreats and goes into hiding. I get that he’s playing a father and not an ex-assassin hell-bent on revenge, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that if someone is hitting you in the face or stomach all you have to do is hit them back, but harder.
That cripples Johnson’s entire image and makes us rely on his acting chops, which are improving, but still a long ways away from the Oscar gold. He’s convincing enough as a loving father, because he takes the time to remind us of that whenever there’s a jail scene between him and his son, but whenever things get more life-threatening he simply stares with an empty look on his face. The tears stream down early and some of them feel earned, but most of them push the film’s mood just a little too far to the right.
Snitch doesn’t work as an action picture and we understand that very early on. So why doesn’t it work as a drama? Well, for starters the writing needs lots of work. Dwayne Johnson‘s problematic character works at the very least, but almost every other character feels like they were pulled directly from a Law & Order episode. There’s the tough undercover cop, the sort-of asshole politician and the insider that’s trying to get clean, but gets pulled back into the world because of John.
No one is given any sort of room to expand on their characters and make them their own, which means every single actor or actress hired for the film is severely wasted. Barry Pepper, Susan Sarandon and Jon Bernthal act as nothing but filler characters to connect Johnson’s character from plot point A to plot point B.
And that’s mostly what Snitch is. A series of painfully dull dramatic beats that are poorly connected by way of quick and very PG-13-friendly action scenes. You get to see maybe five guns get shot during the film’s running time and that’s not even the film’s biggest problem. Its problem is just how ill-conceived and unoriginal everything looks and feels. Ric Roman Waugh leaves no trademark or stamp on the film, making it feel like another paycheck film for Johnson in between Fast & Furious 6 and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.
I don’t blame Johnson for taking the easy check, but I do blame Ric Roman Waugh for wasting the talent and budget given to him. Snitch fails as both a stripped down and simple action film and a family-fueled drama that deals with our shaky prison system and the effects drug dealing has on young teens. It’s all in there, but you’re going to have to spend a good deal of time sifting through the trash before you find something.
Snitch – 6.5/10